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Published On: Thu, Aug 7th, 2014

Weeping for Abba Suleiman

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IG Abba SuleimanBy Ali M. Ali

I can understand it if the freshly minted police chief Abba Suleiman is jumping for joy. It is the dream of every cop, every soldier and for that matter, every professional to be at the top. Suleiman just accomplished that. And in style. He became the 17th Inspector-General of Police with five clear years to retirement a week ago.

He is coming on board armed with a law degree and a lean frame. His austere physique belies his vast network. He will need this ‘network’ to police the nation. And he will need a lot of prayers. Looking at the crime scene, I don’t see any cheer being the nation’s number one crime fighter. Sure I am happy for the Police chief ‘s personal glory, but at times like these, I weep for him.

Until he leap-frogged to the top spot, he has risen through the ranks to an Assistant Inspector General. It is safe to conclude that he is well prepared for the job. Still I don’t envy him. He has a tough task.

Policing this vast country is, ordinarily, super tough. And these are not ordinary times. This makes his job dreadful. Policing Nigeria currently is as effective as a checkpoint mounted by an army of rats to stop a battalion of charging elephants. The idea is so remote as to invite the word ‘impossible.’

The scenario is gloomy all right. I am not being hyperbolic here. Crime has acquired a middle name, ‘’impunity’’. It stalks the land. It swaggers with the assured gait of the ‘untouchable’. Too many ‘executive’ criminals strut the land. They occupy front row seats in affairs of the state. These elements, more than the petty crooks in the breaking and entry genre, are a constant danger to the nation.

Two, the new Inspector-General, will come face to face with the grim statistics. His force is outnumbered and out gunned by crime and criminals. There are about 371,800 cops nationwide. According to therichest.com, “the NP ranks as the ninth largest police force in the world and largest in Africa with a ratio of 205 officers per 100,000 citizens’’.

The United Nations recommends a minimum police strength of 222 per 100,000 people.

I have no empirical evidence. But as a crime reporter covering the police for years, I know that chronic under funding over time has made piloting its affairs an uphill task. This has negatively affected morale and training. Lacking in logistics, inadequate in training, demotivated by living conditions, the rank and file have sauntered through their jobs as a matter of routine.

State governments for years have taken it upon themselves to operationally support state police commands. This support comes in the shape of operational vehicles and in some rare instance, barracks accommodation.

Third reason I am weeping for Suleiman is the unending nightmare called Boko Haram. This misguided bunch with an allegiance to a devilish cause has made the job of the national chief of police the most dangerous job in the country. These chaps are not common criminals. They are daredevils. They just don’t take on the authorities or agents of the state headlong. They incinerate them.

Regular criminals run away from the police. These guys run after the police. This may sound uncharitable. Cold even. The reality is Boko Haram has become the Achilles’ heels of many a fire spitting Inspector –General of police.

I recall Hafiz Ringim’s tough stance on these chaps as IGP between 2010-2012.He spoke tough and acted tough. He blew hot but the rebellious bunch blew hotter. In a daring suicide operation, the former IGP was saved from premature death by whiskers. A freak with a suicidal streak trailed him closely to Force Headquarters and wasted his life and others in a failed bid to swat the police boss. The rest is history.

His successor, MD Abubakar, a thoroughbred officer, I must say, avoided his predecessor’s preoccupation with Boko Haram. As Commissioner of police in Kano and Lagos states, Abubakar showed flashes of brilliance but he too, gradually got sucked into the routine and humdrum life of “Oga at the top”.

Fourth and perhaps the most important reason I, as an admirer of the new police boss, is weeping for him is the politics of the ruling party.

The PDP is known for its ‘do-or-die’ politics. It takes no prisoners. Its mentality is ‘winner takes all’. For controlling power at the centre, it has misused the police so frequently during elections that those at the receiving end see the force as an extension of the party. There are instances policemen in uniform have been caught on camera stuffing ballot boxes in favour of the PDP.

Osun state gubernatorial election is just two short days away. This may prove an acid test for the new IG. Nigerians will be watching the conduct of the police. The IG must avoid speaking or giving the impression that he is inclined to service the whims of the ruling party.

Sure he owes his ascension to the post to the commander in chief but his loyalty is to the constitution of the federal republic.

No doubt Suleiman is a refreshing as the new face of the police. He is friendly for one. A gentleman prepared to entertain inquiries from the press from the sublime to the ridiculous. He is fierce in defending the police. In January, I saw him in action at the Daily Trust Annual Dialogue. Discussants and commentators were unsparing of the conduct of Joseph Mbu who was then Police Commissioner of Rivers state at the time of the near total chaos in that state. He put up a brilliant defence of the police. I am not normally impressed by cop talks. But that day, he converted me. I will stop weeping if he remains the way he was before being IGP. All said and done, I wish him success.

 

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